this time the tentative target was mainly queensland's channel country region, with particular spots of interest being currawinya national park, the burke and wills dig tree, haddon corner and diamantina national park.
not everything worked out exactly as hoped...fine, that's life. i still enjoyed it quite nicely, even if i did cut it somewhat short, to ten days.
here's what (little) i've got to show and tell about the trip.
friday and saturday i spent shopping and checking and prepping my gear, also worrying a bit about the weather: rainy weather was forecast for the east for sunday. i left it pretty open whether i'd leave sunday or monday - no rush while i'm on vacation.
the gear check wasn't a great calamity but not too promising: on saturday my (very old) 10l ortlieb water bladder ruptured and died, then the portaloo top part was found to be cracked unrepairably and wouldn't hold any water, one of the fuel canisters had a broken vent cap, and finally the uhf car antenna turned out to be pretty much finished...so i added a few pet bottles and smaller water bladders to the pile of gear, decided that any diesel stink in the tray would be less of an issue than bulldust, further decided that that portaloo could be used One Last Time without comfy flushing, and as i don't want to talk to anybody anyway, the uhf wouldn't be that vital. (having said that, i did take my trusty yaesu amateur transceiver and a newly acquired garmin inreach mini.)
the car was relatively full, what with about 80l of water, 60l of diesel, some firewood for my lovely pocket fire pit, food (including salad, radishes and oranges from my own garden) and the other usual things you tend to carry when you go camping in remote areas with a bit of comfort. (mind you, that's not quite the same as glamping). all the really important bits of gear were in good shape.
but "thanks" to queensland national parks requiring online pre-booking even for the remotest parks i had to nail down a semi-strict timeline before moving a single meter (in the end none of that worked out and i waste^Wdonated the national parks dept. some money).
sunday, logan to weengallon
sunday morning was dark and drizzly on the coast, but i decided that monday's forecast being good was more important; a yucky first day wouldn't be an issue as i had to get across and out of the populous southeast and the darling downs anyway.
my plan was to get to somewhere in the vicinity of st. george, details to be decided with the help of wikicamps and potluck. in toowoomba i spotted a handy bcf shop and bought a replacement 20l plastic water cube; then puttered along at my usual cruise speed - which is slow, rarely above 90 km/h because a) that's where my car is pretty efficient even with the draggy stuff on the roof, and b) slower speeds give me more opportunity to gaze. remember, vacation, no rush, no stress.
it rained until mid afternoon, then cleared up. the countryside was pretty lush and green and ful of sprouting crops, no surprise as that's pretty good and busy farm country.
in the mid-to-late afternoon, after 480km i got to weengallon (population less than 30, 5-10 houses, two streetlights, one barwon highway, one overnigh camping area with toilets and potable water) and decided that that was good enough. i quickly set up camp in a corner next to a nice wattle tree, and didn't even unpack the kitchen, just snacked a little bit - but the warm jacket had to go on even before sunset: it was not warm at all and somewhat windy. the night itself was also pretty cold but i slept very well (old but good down sleeping bag, silk liner).
monday, to currawinya national park
monday morning was sunny but really quite cold, breath steaming, and less than 7°C at 0745. at which point i was finished with packing up and ready to go.
in st. george i got a coffee from a cafe to make up for the stowed kitchen and the consequential lack of morning caffeine.
west of st. george things usually start to get dry and dusty, but this time the countryside remained pretty green - and looked fairly wet, with very worrying puddles along the road everywhere.
along the way i spotted an emu family with lots of little ones. luckily none had a mad urge to cross the road in front of me...
cunnamulla was mostly the way i remembered it from earlier visits (in 2013, 2015 and 2019), and after a bit more sealed road to eulo i took the dirt road that tracks south towards hungerford - which was marked open, but did have some wet spots.
the real major bummer was that all the three access options for the interesting campsite in currawinya that i had booked were closed. the western park section that i wanted to visit had opened in 2018 and i had planned to spend 2-3 nights there. nope, no go.
after i tried all options i drove a bit further and checked with the park rangers: all of the national park roads and camping sites were closed thanks to the recent rain - except for one spot that i had already been to in 2015. after four closed road signs and a good 150km wasted travel on muddy dirt i ended up at the corni paroo. again.
so far i haven't had too much luck with currawinya national park and hungerford; last time i was there in 2015 i got stuck in hungerford for a few days with fully impassable roads all around me...
making the best of the disappointing situatoin i picked a good spot with access to the water...
...and settled in, with the kitchen open. my daughter occasionally claims that i only eat ramen noodles on trips, but that's complete slander: i do cook and mostly good stuff on my trips. yes, occasionally i make vegie-bacon-whatever stirfry that includes noodles, but not too often.
around sunset i started a nice camp fire and enjoyed a pleasant but cool evening.
tuesday, in currawinya national park
tuesday began with lots of bird noise (that i don't mind) and a lovely view from the roof top tent (that i definitely don't mind!).
after a big cooked breakfast i demounted the solar panel (for max output) and started the serious business of...relaxation. after a few hours of reading and lazing around i went on a short stroll along the paroo, where they do tie the tables down to not lose them whenever the paroo floods...
i even had an afternoon siesta - which is about the maximum laziness i tend to enjoy on trips: somehow i always have itchy feet when travelling, and my trips easily turn into road movies. so, two nights at the corni paroo were enough for me, relaxing as it was.
wednesday, to the noccundra waterhole
the night to wednesday was balmy and nice, and i started the packing up and other morning chores slightly early. before 0800 i was on my way, through the last few muddy spots and first back north to eulo, then west on the totally unadventurous 'adventure way' towards thargomindah.
i didn't want to travel the hungerford road twice but rather had planned to leave the currently inaccessible section straight north for the bulloo developmental road, but...ah well. at lake bindegolly national park i stopped for a quick stretch and a bite to eat, and didn't do the 10km walk around that lake...some other time. the view was pretty good, though; there was quite a bit of wind.
around eulo i briefly had a bit of mobile reception (on the separate telstra travel phone) and prepped the bloody annoying duplicated dumb sets of 27B-6 paperwork that you need for briefly crossing into SA and to be allowed back into QLD, all just to refuel in innamincka. this was more hassle than visiting some eastern european countries behind the iron curtain in the 80s, which is quite an "achievement" - not one the states should be proud of, though.
thargomindah is a bit dusty and small but nice, and has pretty good services for travellers. i didn't stay long, just emptied the portaloo and refuelled the car. no stink in the back, the diesel canister didn't leak and the 'business' side of the loo was never in question anyway...
the mulga lands and the channel country often feels quite empty and somewhat flat, and anything different draws the eye very strongly; so, when the road passed through the grey range (which at that point was just around 190m asl) i simply had to get out and hike up the 5 minutes up the ridge to take a few pictures.
despite the breeze the flies were pretty bad; i had forgotten to put the fly net on the hat, and didn't linger after taking those two panorama shots.
early in the afternoon i reached the noccundra hotel, next to the wilson river and its noccundra waterhole (which i had visited last in 2015, but going the other way). i topped the car up at the hotel's bowser (last fuelling opportunity in this corner of the state) and had the one beer i allowed myself for this trip. nice and cold, the coopers pale ale hit my mostly empty stomach a little bit hard...
afterwards i puttered along the track along waterhole, and about 2km north of the entrance i found a nice, quiet, idyllic spot again next to the water - complete with a tree for my hammock. lovely!
before sunset i wandered around a bit, amongst the many many blooming plants. some of these are good-looking but pretty evil, with supersharp built-in caltrops. of course a few of those migrated from my socks into my shoes. very sharp, quite painful. the green and flowering plants were more evidence that a fair bit of rain had hit the region recently.
thursday, at the noccundra waterhole
thursday was another (mostly) lazy day. after a big breakfast i walked the 2km to the hotel where there are free(-but-donations-welcome) showers (it's just lightly screened river water, but hot and very welcome). i used that opportunity to also do a laundry run with my trusty scrubba wash bag.
back at the camp site i rigged my hammock, the clothesline - and the fly net for the hat: neither 'off!' nor the bushmans' repellent with lotsa DEET have much of an effect on the bush flies. luckily there was a slight breeze and that kept the little beasts at a bearable level.
i did enjoy that day a lot despite the flies (they were most of an annoyance around dinner), and the luxury of swinging in the breeze.
(that's what i meant with the earlier comfort-but-not-quite-glamping comment: i tend to carry a few items that are not strictly necessary but make a big difference in terms of enjoyment.)
friday, detour to innamincka and then to the dig tree
once again, two nights felt like enough nights in one spot, and after another quick shower in the morning i moved on towards the SA border.
the paperwork-infested 'border' crossing to refuel in innamincka was necessary (or at least highly advisable) because there are no fuel stations west of the noccundra hotel; the next options on my planned route was windorah, a good 700km away - and i was not sure how bad the conditions on the arrabury road/track would be - it could have been 300km of fuel-guzzling muddy slog...
the recent rains were still fully evident; there was one 'water over the road' occurrence just a little west of noccundra and numerous puddles on the sides.
in innamincka i quickly refueled, checked the road conditions (everything in the innamincak regional reserve: closed, cordillo downs road: closed, but arrabury road: open 4wd only/with caution) and learned from the fuel station attendant that they had a lot of rain on the previous friday night.
the country was actually quite pleasantly green up to the SA border, where it becomes mostly gibber and rocky desert.
immediately dashing back into queensland meant not possibly getting stranded on the wrong side of the 'border' (rules and restrictions do change here without any warning from hour to hour), and i drove the remaining 60km to the burke and wills dig tree site.
it was a glorious sunny and hot day, and the cooper creek with the trees lining it make a very welcome change compared to the flat plains.
i got there just a bit past lunchtime, and after picking a camp spot i wandered around for a good hour and a half. it was pretty hot with very little wind but lots of birds (and the usual flies).
even with the recent rain the cooper creek is only intermittent there, with waterholes and rocky barriers separating the wet bits. overall very quiet, very pleasant.
the visitors hut has various info panels about the burke & wills expedition and its end near the dig tree, and i spent a bit of time there just before sunset. the dig tree site also sported some very 'special' plants...
a dinner of porterhouse steak and roast vegies capped the day.
saturday, north along the border, to haddon corner and on to windorah
the night was warm but noisy (birds and other critters), and i was woken by the birds and the rising sun that poked straight through the tent window; i conceded defeat and got up, earlier than usual, around 0630; about 0730 i was on my way north.
the very open, very flat landscape near the dig tree site is hard to photograph, i think, but i love this kind of country.
the arrabury road (well, a track) started out pretty scenic but very rocky and a bit wet in places, but soon became a smooth dirt (and bulldust) track. i think the recent rain smoothed it out some, but it also left a few deep washouts straight across the road...two of which i didn't spot early enough to brake for, but besides rattling the car i didn't do any damage.
here i also saw the sole snake of this trip, a big brown or black one trying to cross the (white gravel) road surface in front of my car (but i did swerve to avoid it).
near haddon corner i took a quick break. there were no cattle or anything for many kilometres around, but despite a substantial breeze it took just 15 seconds until i had a cloud of 40-50 flies around my head. my break was a short one...
haddon corner is in the middle of nowhere, and it's not far from the simpson desert - you have to cross two sand dunes to get to the point. i'm sure sunsets are great there, but it was a windy, hot day and the flies kept photobombing me...so i didn't stay. the visitors book showed two visitors earlier on that saturday, and before that some on thursday.
220km further on i reached windorah, and 12km outside of town i camped - again on the banks of the cooper creek.
the tray was dusty as, no surprise after about 350km of dirt track. i wanted to get some creek water (for dust wiping and toilet flushing) but picked an overly muddy spot on the bank and and sunk to the ankles. oh the joy.
on the upside there was (telstra) reception even that far out of town and i had a lovely videochat session with conny and stephanie.
sunday, aimed at diamantina national park but totally wrong
around 0700 the sun came up and i rose; packed up, drove back into town to empty the loo and top up the water containers, then left windorah - towards the west, on my way to a few nights in diamantina national park.
about 25 minutes into the drive i tried to get two gps to confirm the route, one garmin car gps and (openstreetmap-based) osmand on the phone. except they wouldn't agree:
osmand didn't acknowledge the usability of the two dirt roads into the park that i was expecting to take after the diamantina developmental road, and tried to send me pretty much all the way to bedourie; lotsa extra kms.
the garmin offered that option, but as a much shorter one it suggested going north via jundah and half-way to winton. this caused me to worry whether i was going the wrong way; i stopped and dug a bit deeper through the available information.
my (6 year old) hema atlas sorta-kinda supported both options except for one road link along the northern option that it didn't show. the fourth source of advice, the official qld western parks visitor guide says 'head...north from windorah (350km)'. more confusion! but that distance lined up with the northern option suggested by the car garmin.
in the end i decided to accept the 'official' word and the car garmin suggestion, and turned around to go back through windorah and out the northern road. this was a mistake.
the guide is wrong, going north means going almost to winton and then across and back south into the park, all of which adds up to way more distance than "350km". the car garmin was wrong, too, because its lovely northern option tried to send me across the private-no-public-access-no-entry mt. windsor road. (that's the one that the hema atlas didn't show.)
driving back into windorah i grumbled about the wasted time and distance and fuel; but driving to and into jundah somehow is always pleasant. i topped up the fuel there, and began what i thought would be a good if longish trip into the national park.
after crossing the mayne river but before the private road debacle the jundah-winton road got progressively more and more unpleasant with rough corrugations; it was very windy (cross/headwind) and stinking hot (somewhere around 37°). my patience was running a bit low...and then came the 'turn left' advice with the no-go sign just afterwards.
much more grumbling, a fair bit of cursing, too; but i drove on towards winton, for another half an hour or so. then i stopped to look at what distance remained with this approach and to review my options. in the end i decided to not continue onwards but return to the mayne river and camp there.
basically i got fed up with everything, and getting into the diamantina national park no longer had sufficient appeal to outweight the hot, windy, corrugated drive. (so sue me - it's my vacation and i can change plans when i feel like it.)
the camp site on (almost IN) the mayne river was very good and improved my mood greatly; there's a small track starting just off the floodway and i followed that about 1.5km all the way to the very end, through one sandy and one rocky washout, and back to the waterhole. it was still very windy and hot, and i went through a number of waterbottle refills that afternoon (luxury: travelling with a fridge so that i'm never out of nice, cold water).
in the evening the wind died down, but a few thin clouds started to appear. i spent a very pleasant evening with a fair bit of stargazing and listening to music before turning in.
late at night the wind came back, and in the morning there was about 7/8 cloud cover - thin but nevertheless very worrying to me as the camp site would definitely flood very badly and quickly if the mayne was to rise.
monday, the western third of the way home, almost to charleville
because of the clouds i didn't stay in bed long and was moving by 0805. moving where? well, i had decided that i felt like going home and spend the remaining days of my vacation there.
back at the road i took these photos of the floodway across the mayne river; it's quite obvious why i wouldn't want to be anywhere near if there is rain anywhere in the region...
around lunch time he clouds had dissipated and i was back in jundah, for another refuel, a few more iced coffee bottles and a quick status update for friends and family.
i remember getting fuel at the old jundah store in 2013 and 2015; now that's gone and there is a new big store/servo next door...
after that my plan was basically 'heim zu mutti' (colloquial german for 'go home to mum') - except no, not this 'mutti', that's a bit too desolate.
a bit west of charleville i ran out of energy and daylight and camped in a patch of mulga next to the railway.
tuesday, the remaining 2/3 of the way home
the final day, tuesday, was a cruising day - at 870km fairly long and slightly boring in stretches, and not made much more pleasant by the steady crosswind and the traffic on the warrego highway, but no biggie.
around 1900 i arrived at home, where it was already pitch black, and started to enjoy the major luxuries: running water, a big fridge and freezer, a hot shower that needs no rigging or prep, a toilet that is not a portaloo and a queen bed that doesn't have to be packed up every morning :-)